Explore the Incredible Potential of Experiential Learning

Young people have been severely impacted by the pandemic. Mental well-being, learning loss, social skills deficits, and growing uncertainty and pessimism about the future are top of mind for teachers and educators. Travel and exchange experiences are a fun and effective way to help address these developmental concerns and can provide returns for teachers much greater than the additional time and investment required to organize them. Experiences Canada’s Youth Exchanges provide accessible experiential learning opportunities by funding all travel costs to and from your destination, as well as providing tips and advice to teachers who may never have planned a trip before.

For many teenagers, a school trip or Exchange will be their first time traveling without their family. Even though they are safely with a school or youth group, this first solo adventure nurtures their self-confidence and independence, providing them with opportunities to develop their decision-making and problem-solving skills, their capacity to organize, and to communicate effectively. Teachers can amplify their skills development by involving them in the research and planning of their itinerary and assigning tasks to individual students throughout the trip or Exchange.

Indeed, taking youth out of the classroom often helps to bring curriculum to life – providing relevance and context to their studies which helps answer the common question “why do I have to know this?” At Experiences Canada, we facilitate Youth Exchanges on a variety of themes including with sports teams, music groups such as choirs, history, linguistic Exchanges to improve competency of a second language, inter-cultural and intra-cultural Indigenous Exchanges, and more! Math, economics, and accounting can additionally be introduced into travel planning activities by calculating the cost of the trip or carbon footprints, estimating time and distances to travel between activities, determining wait times at tube runs, or comparing food prices between northern and southern communities. A broad variety of curriculum-related activities and learning modules are available for free to support and extend the exchange experience. We often hear from youth that these travel experiences bring them more focus and purpose to their studies and help inspire their paths forward beyond high school.

One of the most valuable learnings that comes from travel and exchange is adaptability. This generation is living in an increasingly global world and the ability to adapt to change and embrace the unknown will be key to a happier, healthier, and more successful future.

Youth on exchange meet with other youth and stay with their host families who may speak different languages and have diverse cultural backgrounds. Such experiences can help immerse youth in a different culture and improve their second language abilities and cultural competency. Youth travel with friends and classmates who they may develop lifelong friendships with. Post-Exchange, youth participants can join our alumni network so that they can remain connected with their Exchange Twin group alongside other youth Exchange participants from across the country expanding their networks to youth who they may have never otherwise met! Exchanges enable youth to build important social skills, develop personal competencies, and to navigate unfamiliar environments.

Youth who have early opportunities to travel tend to see the world more broadly. Immersing young people in diverse cultures and ways of living helps to prepare them for living and working in a global multi-cultural society. Exchanges within Canada can help youth appreciate the diversity of lived experiences within our own country, as well as understand how global issues affect us right here at home.

With so much to gain, Experiences Canada recognizes that eliminating barriers and providing a safe and secure environment for these learning experiences is essential. For the past 87 years we have connected just under 400,000 young Canadians through travel and exchanges. For a registration fee of $250 per group, we cover all travel costs to and from each exchange destination wherever you are in Canada, and we provide 24/7 support to all traveling groups in the event of any travel delays or disruptions, and cover those costs, too. With host families covering the costs of meals and accommodation, exchanges are one of the more affordable ways to support youth travel.

Each participating host family is required to go through extensive screening processes including a vulnerable sector check so parents can be confident that their child is safe and well cared for. We also have an extensive training program for group organizers to help them ensure that every organizational aspect of the trip has been covered. Educators interested in additional training, whether they are actively planning a trip or Exchange, are invited to register for our 2024 Learning by Adventure Exchange Organizers conference to be held at the Ottawa Conference and Event Centre from June 7-9.

Our second annual conference is a unique opportunity for leaders in youth education and for those interested in planning a Youth Exchange to hear from key speakers, former participants, experienced Group Organizers, our Youth Advisory Council members, and to network with fellow Group Organizers. Our keynote address will be delivered by the inspiring Waneek Horn-Miller; Olympian, activist, and respected speaker on Indigenous Health and Reconciliation.

This conference is a unique opportunity to learn about Exchanges and the impact our programs have on youth. This year, we have developed a new “Speed Twinning” workshop specially designed for you to find your perfect Exchange match to begin developing your Exchange program for the upcoming year. Given the high volume of requests received, we are providing more affordable pricing options ranging from $75-$499 CAD. Subsidized air travel is also available within Canada on a case-by-case basis via Air Canada and West Jet. Please send inquiries to our Manager of Events, Jules Alie: jalie@experiencescanada.ca. (some conditions may apply).

It is time to get more of our young Canadians traveling and exploring our country. You can be their guide in a life-changing opportunity and our Learning by Adventure Conference will provide you with a comprehensive guide. Experiences Canada is currently accepting applications for the 2024-2025 school year. Contact us for more information to start your adventure today!